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Drinking water supply in rural communities in biogeographical Chocó. Application of unconventional technologies.

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Drinking water supply in rural communities in biogeographical Chocó.  Application of unconventional technologies.

Drinking water supply in rural communities in biogeographical Chocó. Application of unconventional technologies.

By Wilmer Gómez Mosquera, (2017). National university of Colombia.

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Access to drinking water is a human right that has become an international objective. However, some reports claim that between 800 to 1 billion people currently lack access to clean water. Many of these people live in small, remote and poor communities.

Residents of these communities are often forced to collect water from rain, or from sources such as rivers or lakes; In most cases, the quality of collected water is usually poor. This situation represents a high risk for people’s health.

The main reasons that explain the lack of drinking water in rural communities are: Absence of infrastructure, difficulty in purchasing chemical products for the operation of treatment systems, unsuitable technologies and high operation and maintenance costs.

In this work, the suitability of non-conventional water technologies for rural communities is evaluated, using rainwater as a supply source, evaluating the reliability of water supply from this source, the evaluated technologies refer to membranes. ultrafiltration and low pressure reverse osmosis.

The advantages of these technologies compared to conventional water treatment are that they, in principle, eliminate bacteria, protozoa and viruses from water without the frequent use of chemicals.

The case studies that are evaluated are in rural communities of the Department of Chocó; which is one of the departments with the highest extreme poverty and infant mortality rate in Colombia; The communities of this department have the highest deficits in access to drinking water, and paradoxically the highest average rainfall, between 8,000 to 10,000 mm per year.

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In the research, a pilot project was set up in a rural house, which consisted of the installation of 2 rainwater storage tanks, each with a capacity of 500 L, at 4 and 5 meters high respectively, using as key element of the treatment, a compact reverse osmosis equipment with its pre-treatment and post-treatment units.

In this first case, the rainwater precipitation data of the last 17 years of the study area were evaluated, the availability of water in the tank at the end of each day of the year 2017, the sufficiency of rainwater supply with respect to to the demand for water for different uses, the total costs of the implemented system, the operating efficiency with respect to the hydraulic head or height of the tanks and the outflow or permeate of the osmosis equipment with respect to time.

It is verified for a constructed tank volume of 1000 L, an area of ​​90 m2 and daily precipitation from June to November 2017, in the constant demand model, that although there are variations in the volume of water available in the tank at the end of the day, good coverage is achieved, exactly only 14 of the 183 days analyzed, that is, 92.4% of the time the inhabitants of the rural home, in total 5 people would have availability of water for all uses of the home.

With respect to the water supply of the osmosis equipment, it is verified that the system can be fed by gravity, at a height of 5.mca, however, the performance of the equipment with respect to the nominal flow is approximately 60%.

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Therefore, for some rural communities with low population density, which make it difficult to use economies of scale, this alternative individual solution may be appropriate. Finally, a comparison of rainwater availability through community systems was carried out for the municipality of Sipí-Chocó and 10 other rural communities in Chocó.

In the case of the municipality of Sipí, an alternative solution to the current supply system was presented using the combination of the use of rainwater and a groundwater collection system using ultrafiltration as a treatment system and with respect to the other communities it was carried out. He calculated the size of the storage tank to supply the communities’ drinking water needs 90% of the time, 50 L/inhab.day, also using ultrafiltration systems and comparing the construction and operation costs of these technologies vs. conventional.

The data on the conventional systems were taken from the results of a consulting project financed with royalty resources from Chocó, which consisted of proposing conventional technologies, using river water as a source, for 90 rural communities. It was concluded that, with the rainfall in the area, storage tanks between 20 m3 and 100 m3 are required.

The construction costs of conventional systems are 65% higher than alternative rainwater source ultrafiltration systems and the operating costs are 60% higher, so this solution can be an effective alternative for these communities whose coverage of aqueducts is practically non-existent and water sources are frequently contaminated with mercury and organic matter due to mining, deforestation and organic waste.

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